- Zebras, a python… Wonder what they’ll find next.
There are some fantastic beasts out there, and we know just where to find them. Just go to Maryland.
The state’s animal control services have let struggled with a bit more than just your usual dogs, cats, and raccoons. They’ve had to add zebras and pythons to the list as well.
Let’s start with the escaped convicts in striped uniforms. A small herd of five zebras has been roaming around Prince George’s County for nearly a month.
The zebras escaped on August 31 from a farm in Marlboro. Yes, it’s legal to farm zebras in Maryland, and the facility in question has 39 of the animals.
Well, 34, at least for the time being. The runaway zebras managed to somehow get away from the farm and their owner was unable to find them, reported The Washington Post.
Rodney Taylor, chief of the Prince George’s animal services division, said he didn’t exactly believe his ears when a local homeowner called to report a bunch of zebras in a forested area.
“I was like, ‘I’m not sure about that,’” Taylor recalled telling the caller. However, he then remembered the zebra farm and sent a crew out to check the woods, just in case.
They found no zebras. But over the next week, reports about the animals started flooding in, so they were clearly out there somewhere.
‘Can’t Hunt Them Down’
As we said, it’s been nearly a month, and the zebras are still on the loose. Maryland isn’t exactly like their native savannah, but they seem to prefer staying out and about instead of going back to the farm.
A video posted on Twitter shows one of the zebras trotting along by a public road in Upper Marlboro. According to reports, the animals have split into two group, with one pair having decided to go off on their own.
Taylor told WJLA that the zebras are very difficult to hunt down. They’re not tame, don’t trust people, and can take off at a ridiculous speed.
“You can’t hunt them down. They’re just too fast, they run, they won’t let you get near them,” explained Taylor.
“We do have a feeding station set up, and we’re winning their confidence. They are eating there every morning between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.,” he added.
The idea is to gradually keep adding corral panels around the feeding area, slowly but surely fencing the animals in. Once trapped, animal control plans to tranquilize them and deliver them back to the farm.
But that’s easier said than done.
“If you build a corral area all at once, they’re very sensitive, and they won’t come there to eat. So, you have to put up a few panels at a time,” Taylor said.
Animal control officials haven’t told the public where the feeding area and corral are located. The zebras aren’t really dangerous, but they are wild animals and therefore naturally unpredictable.
“If you spook them, you’re just pushing them further out. And that’s when it can get dangerous, they can get out on the highway, things can happen,” said Taylor.
He encourages the public to take pictures of the zebras and report their movements to the authorities. But in the same breath, he says that you should also keep a safe distance.
“Never approach them, and don’t try to pet them. They’re not going to chase you down,” he said. “They’re not handled by people a lot, so to defend themselves they could bite.”
Being related to horses, the zebras can also deliver a nasty kick if they feel threatened. It’s better to stay away.
Taylor said that the ongoing zebra episode ranks among the weirdest things he’s seen on the job.
“This one ranks up there. We’ve not had this before,” he reminisced.
However, he does remember an incident from the 1980s, when a truck driver from a traveling circus left an animal trailer behind a local bank before quitting his job. On the trailer were a lion, a hippo in a large pool, and an elephant.
‘We Raise You a Python’
Taylor can add another weird animal to his list, though. On September 17 in Greenbelt, also in Prince George’s County, a Public Works Department employee found a ball python at a playground.
“Town of Marlboro, we see your loose zebras and raise you a python!” the City of Greenbelt tweeted.
Employees at the Buddy Attic Park realized something strange was going on when they discovered a huge, shed snake skin. The next day, the spotted the skin’s previous owner — the four-foot-long ball python.
Unlike zebras, though, the snake wasn’t exactly a master escapist. Animal control officers captured the slithery intruder, but not without a bit of a struggle.
Animal control officer Rebecca Meyers told WUSA9 that it took several people to capture the heavy python.
“It did take a team effort because that thing was actually pretty big,” she said.
An attending police officer’s body camera captured the operation on video. The footage shows workers using trash-picking tongs to get a hold of the struggling snake.
The python wasn’t hurt and is not in the care of an exotic pet rescue organization. Authorities have no idea how it got to the playground, though.